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Chapter 1

When a demon leaves Earth in order to go to the Realm of Darkness, profound forces are involved, discernible only to senses that can detect what for most humans is undetectable. That evening, not long after his talk with Aretino, Azzie gazed upward at the starry sky. He snapped his fingers — he had recently procured a new finger-snapping spell, and now .was a good chance to try it out. The spell kicked in and flung him into the air, and soon he was traveling rapidly through space, his passage brighter than a falling star.

Azzie roared through the transparent separation that forms the covering of the Heavenly sphere of the heavens, picking up mass as he went in accordance with the law of speeding objects that governs even devils in their flight. The stars seemed to nod and wink at his passage. The wind that howled between the worlds sent a chill through him, and Ur-frost formed on his nose and eyebrows. He felt the savage chill of those desolate spaces, but he didn't slow down. He was in the devil's own hurry. Once Azzie got an idea, he was unstoppable.

In order to get a great event like an immorality play written and staged, he needed money. He had to pay the human actors, and it cost plenty to purchase the special effects — those fortuitous miracles that would occur to cheer his actors on their way to undeserved good fortune. Azzie had remembered that he hadn't been paid his bonus for the Bad Deed of the Year award which he had received for his part in the Faust affair.

At last his speed was sufficient for the great shift that propels a being from one realm of existence into another. Suddenly Azzie was no longer traveling through the sphere of mundane objects and energies made up of atoms and their constituent member particles. He had passed through the invisible and impalpable separation that divides ordinary objects like mumesons and tachyons from the finer particles of the Spiritual Realm.

Just ahead of him were the great grim blue-black walls of Hell City, on which the walls of ancient Babylon had been modeled. Sentinel devils patrolled the high bastions; Azzie waved his pass at them and hurtled on.

He came in over the dark Satanic suburbs and soon was in the business section of Hell City, where the administrative work was carried out. He passed by the Public Works division; it was of no interest to him just now. The great bureaucratic buildings coalesced around him, he picked the right one, and soon he was hurrying down a corridor filled with other demons, as well as imps in pageboy's uniforms. Here and there were the inevitable kimono-clad succubi who made the lunches of senior officials so pleasant. He came at last to the Accounting Section.

He was expected to take his place at the end of the long line of petitioners who waited impatiently for someone to hear their cases. They were a down-at-the-heels and seedy bunch. Azzie went right past them to the head of the line, flourishing a gold-edged Bypass Card he had gotten from Asmodeus back when he stood high in that senior devil's favor.

The clerk in charge of Payments Past Due was an ill- favored Transylvanian imp-goblin with a long nose and breath that was horrific even by Hell's standards. Devoted as he and all his fellows were to doing as little as possible, thus saving their own energy and Hell's money, he claimed that Azzie had not filled in his papers correctly, and in any event, he had filled out the wrong forms. Azzie showed him a Waiver of Correctness signed by Beelzebub himself. It stated that no impediment in the paperwork was to stop or delay the payment of moneys owed to said demon. The imp-goblin was sore pressed by this, but found a last excuse.

"I do not have the authority to pass on these things. I'm just a wretched little imp-goblin clerk. What you've got to do is go down the hall, take the first door to your right, go up the staircase — "

Azzie was having none of it. He produced another form, an Instant Action Chit, which stated that no excuses would be tolerated in the paying of this demand, and that any obfuscation on the part of the requisite clerk would be met with Pecuniary Punishment, viz., taking the amount owed out of the clerk's own salary. This was the most drastic form of action anyone could take in Hell City, and Azzie had had to steal the form from the special office where they were handed out only to the favored few.

The form's effect on the imp-goblin was immediate and gratifying. "It's not coming out of my pocket!" the imp- goblin said. "Where's my stamp?" He rummaged around his desk, found it, and stamped Azzie's papers with URGENT! PAY IMMEDIATELY! in letters of fire. "Now just take that down the hall to the Payments window. And then kindly go away. You have quite ruined my day."

Azzie did so. He vowed to return with nasty new tricks if there was any further trouble. But the clerk at the Payments window, seeing the notation PAY IMMEDIATELY!, initialed it and handed over forthwith and without delay several sacks of gold coins, making up the full amount of what Azzie was owed.


Chapter 8 | A Farce To Be Reckoned With | Chapter 2







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